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15 awesome things to do in Iowa Des Moines

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What are the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines? Des Moines is the largest city in the whole of Iowa and has so much to offer. There are plenty of great things to do in Iowa Des Moines for everyone to enjoy, so carry on reading to find out all about the most un-missable activities:

Tourism in Iowa Des Moines- overview

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines

Tourism in Iowa Des Moines is fairly popular, but mainly for domestic tourists – which makes it a great destination to visit if you would like to escape the crowds and have a vacation somewhere that hasn’t suffered from over-tourism. As of 2020, Iowa Des Moines has a population of around 214,133 people, and it is a very popular city in regard to business. Due to it being very business-centric, this means that many of the tourists are classed as business tourists due to them having to travel to Des Moines for things such as work events and meetings.

Iowa Des Moines is very well known for its skywalks, which are walkways connecting buildings. It has over four miles of walkways in total, making it one of the largest skywalk systems in the United States. There are also 76 city parks in total, all offering a wide range of different things, such as lakes which makes it great for people who are interested in nature tourism.

There is an airport in Iowa Des Moines, called Des Moines International Airport (DSM), and has flights to other destinations within the United States. Apart from the airport, most people in Iowa Des Moines use either the buses as their main transportation system or travel by motor vehicles. Therefore, if you’re looking to visit Iowa Des Moines as a tourist, it’s recommended to use or rent a car or get to know the bus system beforehand.

The weather in Iowa Des Moines is very hot and humid during the summer, with temperatures reaching up to 100 °F (38 °C). During the winter months, the temperature drops massively to around 0 °F (−18 °C), and there is an average snowfall of 36.5 inches in the winter season, which is slightly colder than in Chicago.

The best places to stay in Iowa Des Moines

There are plenty of great places to stay in Iowa Des Moines. Here are my recommendations-


  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites Des Moines Downtown – Offering spacious rooms, complete with a cable TV, free WiFi, a desk, a microwave and a private bathroom for all guests, this hotel is fantastic value! The hotel even has a spa and a wellness centre to relax and rejuvenate with. It is located near to the Science Centre of Iowa and near to Gray’s Lake Park, making it a great place to stay in if you’d like to be close to all of the best attractions Iowa Des Moines has to offer.
  • Quality Inn & Suites Des Moines – Located less than one mile from Des Moines Airport, this accommodation is a great choice if you would like to be close to the airport. There is free transportation between the hotel and the airport, and it is very simple to get into the centre of Iowa Des Moines. Each room is equipped with free high-speed WiFi, a spacious desk, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, a microwave and a coffee machine.
  • Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Des Moines Airport – Perfectly situated close to Des Moines Airport, this is the perfect place to stay if you’re on a budget and would like value for money. There is a flat-screen TV in each room, a coffee-making facility, a desk, a private bathroom and free WiFi. The hotel also has an indoor pool, an onsite gym and a 24-hour front desk.


  • Embassy Suites Des Moines Downtown – Every room at Embassy Suites comes equipped with a comfortable bed, beautiful views, an en-suite bathroom, a coffee machine and free WiFi. The hotel is ideally situated just across the street from most of the major attractions in Des Moines, such as the Iowa State Capitol. Additionally, the hotel even has its own indoor pool, fitness centre, and a daily cook-to-order breakfast.
  • Comfort Inn & Suites Event Centre – This hotel features an indoor heated pool, a fitness centre, free parking as well as a complimentary buffet breakfast which is served every morning. In each room, guests will be able to make use of a flat-screen satellite TV, desk, refrigerator, microwave and a private bathroom complete with a hairdryer and other amenities.
  • Hyatt Place Des Moines Downtown – Located in downtown Iowa Des Moines, Hyatt Place is the perfect place to stay if you’d like to be near to plenty of the major attractions. There is a sofa in each room, as well as a desk, free WiFi, a refrigerator, a coffee machine and a 42-inch HD TV. Furthermore, the hotel even has an on-site restaurant which serves a wide range of meals and snacks, as well as a 24-hour gym and a free shuttle service to the airport.

High end

  • Hilton Des Moines Downtown – Boasting beautifully decorated rooms that will make you feel right at home, the Hilton Des Moines Downtown is a great place to stay for everyone who wants to treat themselves to quality. There is a 24-hour front desk, a concierge service and room service, as well as an indoor pool, a business centre and a gym. Every room has an en-suite, a desk and a flat-screen HD TV.
  • Staybridge Suites Des Moines Downtown – Featuring a large flat-screen TV, a desk, a fully equipped kitchen, and an en-suite in each suite, guests will love this accommodation. There is a heated indoor pool to make use of, a fitness centre, free WiFi and a complimentary breakfast are served for guests every morning. It is located in the heart of Iowa Des Monies, making it great for guests who need to be centrally located.
  • Hotel Fort Des Moines – Offering so many fantastic on-site facilities such as a restaurant serving delicious food, a fitness centre with state-of-the-art equipment, a bar and even a business centre, Hotel Fort Des Moines is a great place to stay for all. In each room, guests will find a coffee machine, a flat-screen TV, a desk and an en-suite with free toiletries. Additionally, a hearty American breakfast is available each morning for guests.

Iowa Des Moines- essential packing list

When you’re visiting Iowa Des Moines, don’t forget to pack these essential items in order to enhance your trip as much as possible:

  • Jack Walker Women’s Waterproof Hiking Boots – These sturdy waterproof hiking boots are ideal for when visiting Iowa Des Moines as there are so many beautiful places to go hiking! They are made from a lightweight, breathable material, which makes them great to go travelling with. Additionally, they even come with a 6-month warranty, just in case you have any issues with them!
  • Wicker Picnic Basket for 4 – Iowa Des Moines has plenty of great parks to sit in and enjoy the views from. Therefore, this Wicker Picnic Basket for 4 is an ideal thing to pack with you when visiting Iowa Des Moines. It comes equipped with high-quality plates, glasses and cutlery, as well as even a cooler compartment to help keep your food and drink cool.
  • Uniquebella Raincoat for Women – Although the weather in Iowa Des Moines is usually quite nice, it’s best not to get caught out in the rain as it’s very common during certain months. This stylish raincoat is perfect for taking with you to Iowa Des Moines, as it is lightweight, very comfortable and even windproof. It even comes in other colours, so there will be something to match your style.
  • Iowa State Parks Bucket List Adventure Guide and Journal – This Iowa State Parks book is the perfect thing to pack when visiting Iowa Des Moines, as you’ll be able to be inspired and learn more about the state parks that Iowa has to offer. It gives you the ability to plan the best routes around all of the state parks.

The best things to do in Iowa Des Moines

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines for kids

What are the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines for kids? If you’re visiting Iowa Des Moines with kids, then they will love these great activities:

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines
  • Science Centre of Iowa – The Science Centre of Iowa is one of the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines for kids who are curious and eager to learn. At the Science Centre, they will get the opportunity to learn all about a variety of things, such as space, dinosaurs and much more. There’s even a planetarium which is impressive for all, as well as a range of different events on throughout the year to sign up for and enjoy.
  • Des Moines Dash Scavenger Hunt – Enjoy learning all about Iowa Des Moines with this super fun scavenger hunt to take part in! During the scavenger hunt, kids will enjoy being able to discover all the different parts that Iowa Des Moines has to offer and will even be able to learn about its history. There is also the chance to win some amazing prizes along the way!
  • Blank Park Zoo – Kids will love learning and getting the chance to see all of their favourite animals at Blank Park Zoo! The zoo opened in 1966 and has since aimed to educate people about nature and its precious animals in order to help promote conservation in the wild. There are lots of different things to see and do at the zoo, but kids will be sure to love the special events that are put on throughout the year.

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines for couples

Is there anything to do in Iowa Des Moines for couples? Yes, Iowa Des Moines is great for couples. Have a look at some of the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines for couples:

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines
  • Iowa Original Brew Tour With Food, Drink, and Transport – If you and your partner love beer, then this is the tour that you both need to take when in Iowa Des Moines! During the tour, you will discover the vibrant craft beer scene that Iowa Des Moines has to offer, and you will even get VIP access to the behind-the-scenes to how four different craft breweries make their tasty beer – and you’ll also get to try it too!
  • Des Moines Art Center – Featuring plenty of different types of paintings, sculptures and other types of art, the Des Moines Art Centre is a great way to spend a few hours relaxing and discussing your different interpretations with your significant other. Additionally, there are also lots of exciting exhibitions that are on display regularly, making it always interesting. They even have classes on occasionally if you wish to challenge each other and show off your skills!
  • Principal Park – If you’re looking for something romantic and simple to do with your significant other, then a stroll through Principal Park is a great idea. In the park, you will come across plenty of places to sit and relax, and it is often very quiet and private, which makes it great if you’d like some alone time to talk with each other. If you feel like being more active, renting a bike and riding it around the park is also a great idea for a date!

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines in summer

What are some things to do in Iowa Des Moines in summer? Here are the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines in the summer months:

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines
  • Des Moines Botanical Garden – During the summer months, the Des Moines Botanical Garden is definitely a sight to see! The flowers and plants are in full bloom and look gorgeous and colourful against the sunlight. Here you will be able to discover all the different types of plants and learn all about them – they also make for pretty photos too!
  • Altoona Aquatics Park – Cool off from the heat at Altoona Aquatics Park, which features plenty of pools and waterslides to enjoy. The park is fun for the whole family and has a lot to do. In the summer, the park also hosts programmes for children to enjoy, such as swimming lessons and water games.
  • Downtown Farmers’ Market – The Downtown Farmer’s Market is one of the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines in summer! At the Farmers’ market, you will be able to purchase all different types of fresh fruit and vegetables to devour and make some delicious summer recipes. Additionally, if you don’t feel like cooking yourself, there are also plenty of stalls that you can buy fresh pre-made meals from.

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines at night

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines

Is there any good things to do in Iowa Des Moines at night? Iowa Des Moines has some of the best nightlife! Have a look at these things to do in Iowa Des Moines at night:

  • Mullets – This is one of the top bars to visit in Iowa Des Moines. There are lots of delicious food to choose from on the menu, all at great prices and generous servings. Additionally, there is a huge variety of different drinks to choose from to suit everyone’s tastes and preferences. Furthermore, there are often a lot of events on, so get yourself down there as soon as possible!
  • Up-Down Arcade Bar – If you’re in the mood for something a bit different, then the Up-Down Arcade Bar will be perfect for you! At this bar, you’ll be able to play all types of arcade games from the 80s and 90s whilst enjoying delicious food and drinks. What’s more is that everything is very well priced, with the games costing just 25 cents! It’s a fun-filled way to spend a night in Iowa Des Moines for all!
  • Noce Jazz Club – Relax and unwind to the brilliant jazz music that often plays nightly at Noce Jazz Club. Here you will be able to sip on a classic cocktail whilst being absorbed in the soothing atmosphere and enjoying yourself to the music. Tickets are very affordable, but of course, they depend on the artist who’s playing. It’s one of the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines at night, especially if you want an excuse to get dressed up!

Free things to do in Iowa Des Moines

What are some free things to do in Iowa Des Moines? If you’re on a budget, then check out these great free things to do in Iowa Des Moines:

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines
  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park – There aren’t many parks as cool or as interesting as Pappajohn Sculpture Park! The park is around 4.4 acres large and is open from sunrise to midnight. Overall, there are plenty of sculptures to see and learn about, which feature artwork from more than two dozen artists. It’s not to be missed if you want to do some interesting free things to do in Iowa Des Moines.
  • Walnut Woods State Park – This state park is perfect in all the seasons! Here, you will be able to explore the different types of trees, sit amongst the nature, and you can even fish in the lakes. There are more than 2-miles of hiking trails to be enjoyed, and there are even places to camp if you want to really immerse yourself in the nature that Iowa Des Moines has to offer.
  • Des Moines River Trail – The Des Moines River Trail is one of the best free things to do in Iowa Des Moines for nature lovers. On the trail, you will discover the beautiful rivers that flow through Iowa Des Moines and may even discover some less well-known places too. It’s a great thing to do, especially in the summer months and is the perfect place to relax and have a picnic along.

Things to do in Iowa Des Moines – Conclusion

Hopefully, after reading this post, you’ve been inspired to do some of the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines that it has to offer! What things to do in Iowa Des Moines look the most interesting to you? Have I missed any of the best things to do in Iowa Des Moines off the list that you believe deserves to be on here? Let me know by leaving a comment down below! If you’d enjoy some further reading, then you might also like these posts:

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